The 1975 vote in favour of Europe did not, however, end the debate on the United Kingdom’s membership of what is now a much expanded European Union. As we await the results of a second referendum on whether to ‘remain’ or to ‘leave’ on 23 June, the Conservative Party Archive provides much research material to those interested in exploring the Party’s position with regard to the 1975 EU referendum and toward the EEC/EU more generally during this period.
Following the death of the Labour MP Harry Harpham on 4 February 2016 the Sheffield constituency of Brightside and Hillsborough goes to the Polls today for the election of a new MP.
Created in 2010 following a review by the Boundary Commission, the constituency is essentially the successor to the Sheffield Brightside. Since its creation for the 1885 General Election Sheffield Brightside had elected a Conservative Member of Parliament only twice: James Hope in 1900 and Hamer Russell in 1931. Indeed, since 1935 it had been a staunchly held labour seat which is perhaps identified in the minds of many today with David Blunkett, its long-standing labour MP, 1987-2015.
The papers of the Conservative Party Archive held at the Bodleian Library allow us to look back to the last by-election of Sheffield Brightside on 13 June 1968 held after the death of Richard Winterbottom who had been elected in the 1950 General Election. Continue reading
Web archiving is a relatively new initiative which is becoming more and more of a priority as we realise how rapidly the World Wide Web is expanding and how transient web pages can be. The Bodleian Libraries is working to ensure meaningful online content is captured for posterity and future research.
The British Library’s UK Web Archive blog published a worrying chart of how many URLs are now irrecoverable because the content is simply no longer available online:
To combat this in the future, the Bodleian has been contributing to the British Library’s UK Web Archive, alongside the five other legal deposit libraries for the UK (the British Library, the National Library of Scotland, the National Library of Wales, Cambridge University Library, and the library of Trinity College Dublin). We do this by selecting sites to be archived and deciding how often snapshots of their content should be taken, which ranges from weekly to annually to just a one-off interactive picture of the site. The Bodleian has ensured the World Wide Web’s recording of significant global happenings has been captured by curating collections on the Ebola epidemic and Typhoon Haiyan. As well as this, the Bodleian contributes to collections managed by all the legal deposit libraries, such as the UK General Election and the Scottish Independence Referendum, and offers input into what sites should be considered key sites and crawled regularly. These cover a broad range of subjects, from news sites to governmental sites to sports sites, to ensure the strongest representation of society today is preserved.
As well as this initiative, the Bodleian has been developing its own web archive, which seeks to archive sites which relate to the University of Oxford, and to the Bodleian’s archival holdings. We are working hard to capture the websites of the various colleges, departments and sub-divisions which make up the university, as well as building web archive collections around the subjects of Arts and Humanities; International; Science, Medicine and Technology and Social Sciences to complement and strengthen our physical holdings. Sites include those relating to J.R.R. Tolkien, the Conservative Party and research sites on colonialism and the British Empire. We welcome public nominations for sites you deem worthy of perpetual preservation, and also invite the public to consult our current web archives. You can find links to both here.
Websites crawled in the UK Web Archive are produced in the United Kingdom and so can be crawled under the E-Legal deposit act. The Bodleian’s Web Archive, on the other hand, relies on gaining permission from the website owner to capture the website. If permission is granted, we add it to our collections, and set it to a One-Time, Monthly, Bi-monthly, Quarterly, Semiannual or Annual crawl, and the captures are available online after each time they are produced. The work does not stop there though, as websites are constantly updated, which means we need to check collection-crawls at determined intervals to make sure we are still preserving accessible content.
Since beginning the web archive in March 2011, we have captured a broad range of websites, and have accessible archives of content that is no longer available, such as the webpages for the Conservative Women’s Organisation for Yorkshire and the South West.
As well as preserving valuable transitory content, the web archive charts the development of websites. A screenshot of the Bodleian Libraries’ homepage captured in October 2011 in contrast to that taken in October 2015 demonstrates how much websites transform visually and aesthetically, as well as documenting their content changing.
If you would like to learn more about using web archives as scholarly resources, there will be a free public lecture on the subject on the 11th December 2015. You can reserve tickets here.
Currently being catalogued at the Bodleian Library are papers of Sir Cecil Clementi (1875-1947), Colonial Secretary in British Guiana (1913-1922) and Ceylon (1922-1925) and Governor of Hong Kong (1925-1930) and the Straits Settlements (1930-1934). These compliment the Clementi papers already received and catalogued by the Library in 1997 (shelfmark: MSS. Ind. Ocn. s. 352).
Clementi spent many years working in Hong Kong having first been posted there as a cadet in 1899. He was involved with the foundation of the University of Hong Kong and wrote the words (in Latin) of the University Anthem which was performed at the opening ceremony on 11 March 1912.
In 2011, Professor Chan Hing-yan re-orchestrated the Anthem as part of the University’s centenary celebration (listen here).
Clementi returned to Hong Kong as Governor in 1925. He was made Chancellor of the University the same year and in 1926 was awarded an Honorary LLD (Doctor of Laws).
(1) Denman Fuller, Cecil Clementi and the University of Hong Kong. University Anthem (Novello and Company Limited, London: c.1912)
There is a great deal of focus on the lives and work of the officers of Her Majesty’s Overseas Civil Service and civil contractors working abroad. Here at the Bodleian in our Commonwealth and African collections researchers often consult our many official and personal papers including those of the Overseas Service Pensioners’ Association.
But what about the wives and children that came with them? They had to deal with living in a foreign country with different customs, languages and climates. Many of them, at least initially, had no work routine to settle into or familiar faces to rely on.
Think for a minute of the thousand little things in your everyday life that you take for granted. Dealing with them in another land—even in a large metropolitan city (which many of them were not posted to)—could be confusing enough. For those who moved to a provincial outpost or a small island it was even more of a culture shock.
Take something as basic as buying common household goods: Where do you find needle and thread? Do they even have oats here? Can you buy beef? Often you needed to find a local substitute and even if they were available it might be packaged different, you might be looking in the wrong shop or you can’t find the words to describe something that seems so obvious to you. This could end up being an exercise in frustration where you found yourself wandering aimlessly for hours and returning empty handed.
Enter the Women’s Corona Society (WCS).
Most people will not have heard of it, but to the emigrating Englishwoman it was a lifeline. They gave courses on food, childcare, and health as well as providing a support network for the wives and families of those who were working abroad. It could be a lonely life with the husband away at work all day and lot of leisure time on your hands.
The WCS provided courses to educate the new arrival on living overseas, charities to be volunteers in, visits and outings to familiarise them with the local area and people, social gatherings to relax and meet others in the society etc.
A schedule of autumn courses shows the range of topics covered from the practical to the educational with doctors, officials and other experts speaking on ‘Malaria and Other Insects Borne Diseases’ to ‘Nature Studies Overseas’ to ‘Beauty round the World’.
One of the WCS members paints an evocative picture of what a prospective newcomer could expect upon arrival.
‘Often, on arrival, a family may live for a while in a hotel – and this can sometimes be a lonely start for a wife whose husband is out at work all day and she knows no one to talk to.’
And for ‘families who go straight into their own homes, the facilities of the Corona “Survival Basket” are often very welcome until their own luggage arrives.’
It was not just with the practical aspects of living overseas that WCS helped with. One of the most important things they provided was a social network.
This was fostered by theatre parties, afternoon teas, and charity events.
It wasn’t only a resource and a society for when you were abroad though. They also had a thriving social scene around their London headquarters; as shown by the selection of invitations to the right.
Whether their husbands’ tours of duty were done and they had to reintegrate to British life, or they were Commonwealth citizens moving to the UK for the first time, the WCS was equally there to help them find their feet as well.
Sometimes for returning expats the UK was the most foreign land of all when your friends, family and life had moved on without you.
The recent death of former Chancellor of the Exchequer Denis Healey at the age of 98 reminded me of a curious connection in the Roy Jenkins archive. Not only were Healey and Jenkins Labour Party and ministerial colleagues but in 1986, The Times commissioned Jenkins to revise what turned out to be Denis Healey’s very premature obituary.
This newly released file [see MS. Jenkins 440] contains multiple manuscript and typescript drafts of the obituary, as well as Jenkins’ notes and research, including photocopies from The Times regarding Healey’s famous phrase “they must be out of their little Chinese minds”.
Enclosed with the file is a letter from John Grigg, obituaries editor for The Times, calling the final version “a masterpiece in the genre”. It’s by no means the only acclaimed biographical work by Roy Jenkins. A life-long author as well as a life-long politician, he specialised in political biography. He wrote well-received books about Attlee, Dilke, Truman, Asquith, Gladstone, Churchill and Roosevelt and (not least) his own memoir, A Life At The Centre (1991). You can find drafts and related papers for his books and his journalism (including more obituaries) in the Roy Jenkins archive at the Weston Library. He also wrote five pieces for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, including articles on his former Labour colleagues Harold Wilson and Tony Crosland [DNB subscription required].
Ava Anderson, Lady Waverley, (1896-1974) was a renowned society hostess and confidante. Among her papers at the Bodleian Library is a collection of letters from Harold Macmillan (1894-1986) which provide a fascinating insight into his political career 1947-74. Harold Macmillan’s friendship with Lady Waverley provided him with a confidential sounding board for his thoughts. This particular letter dates from 12 August 1961, whilst Macmillan was Prime Minister.
Macmillan mentions that he has applied to join the European Community. Achieving British membership was a key part of his government’s foreign policy. However, Charles de Gaulle would veto British entry in 1963, fearing that an Anglo-American alliance would dominate Europe. It would be another ten years until Britain joined the European Community in 1973.
It is not all serious politics. Writing to Lady Waverley whilst she was on holiday in Italy, Macmillan jokingly suspects that their correspondence is under surveillance by the Italian authorities. His abhorrence of thrillers and detective novels, and his delight in seeing his children and grandchildren create a really human picture of the former Prime Minister.
The letter also includes a poignant account of his visit to see an elderly Winston Churchill at his home at Chartwell, where Macmillan is saddened to see the decline of a once powerful statesman.
These letters to Lady Waverley show us Macmillan through his own words, and provide a personal complement to Macmillan’s own archive, which is also held at the Bodleian, on deposit.
A catalogue of other papers of Lady Waverley held by the Bodleian is available online.
Next week the Bodleian Libraries will be participating in the Explore Your Archive campaign. Now it in its third year, Explore Your Archive is an annual campaign deliverd by The National Archives and the Archives and Records Association to promote the UK archives sector.
From Monday 16 November through to Friday 20 November the Archives and Manuscripts blog will feature daily posts on some of our current work and items from our collections selected by staff.